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Hot Cross Bun Muffins

Love hot cross buns, but are scared of cooking with yeast?

Say hello to these hot cross bun muffins!

They’re just as delicious, with the same spiced flavor from the cinnamon and nutmeg, but have more of a cakey texture instead of a bready texture.

You can still slather them with butter though for a delicious Easter breakfast (before your leg of lamb with all the trimmings!).

Ingredients you’ll need

These ingredients come together to create an irresistible muffin that’s a close cousin to the traditional hot cross bun.

Now, let’s get baking!

  • Chocolate chips: I used chocolate chips for a fun twist on a regular hot cross bun, but feel free to substitute with currants and cranberries for a more traditional flavor.
  • Self-raising flour: This helps the muffins rise without needing yeast, making the recipe easier and quicker.
  • Baking soda: A little extra leavening agent to ensure a nice, fluffy texture in your muffins.
  • Ground cinnamon and nutmeg: These spices add warmth and depth to the muffin’s flavor, giving them that classic hot cross bun taste.
  • Sunflower oil: A neutral-tasting oil that keeps the muffins moist without overpowering their flavor.
  • Buttermilk: Adds a slight tanginess and helps create a tender crumb in your muffins. You can make your own buttermilk by mixing one tablespoon of white vinegar or fresh lemon juice into a cup of milk. Let it sit for 5-10 minutes until it appears thickened and curdled. 
  • Eggs: You can’t bake without eggs!
  • Caster sugar: This fine sugar dissolves easily, giving the muffins their sweet taste.
  • Icing sugar and lemon juice: Combining these two ingredients creates a thick, pipable icing to make the iconic cross on top of your faux hot cross buns.


Step 1: Prepare the muffin tray and preheat the oven

Preheat your oven to 200°C (392°F) and grease your muffin tray with butter or line it with paper cases. 

This makes it easier to remove the muffins later without them sticking.

Step 2: Make the muffin batter

Sift the self-raising flour, baking soda, ground cinnamon, and ground nutmeg into a large bowl.

Sifting helps create a lighter, more even texture in the muffins. In a separate bowl, whisk together the sunflower oil, buttermilk, eggs, and caster sugar until well combined. Using a whisk helps incorporate air, resulting in a fluffier muffin.

Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and gently stir to combine. Be careful not to overmix, as this can lead to a denser muffin texture.

As soon as the last flour streak disappears, stop mixing.

Then gently fold in the chocolate chips, making sure they’re evenly distributed throughout the batter.

Step 3: Bake the muffins

Divide the batter among the muffin cases, filling them ¾ full.

Bake for 20-25 minutes until lightly browned. Then let the muffins cool on a wire rack.

Step 4: Glaze and decorate the muffins

In a small pan, dissolve sugar in an equal amount of water by warming it over a low heat. 

Once the sugar has dissolved, brush the glaze over the cooled muffins for a shiny finish.

Next, sift icing sugar into a bowl and add the lemon juice, along with just enough hot water to make a thick, pipable icing. 

Drizzle the icing from a spoon to draw a cross (or whatever pattern you want) on each muffin. Let the icing set for a few minutes before serving.

If you want a really neat cross, you can use a piping bag or a sandwich bag with a tiny hole cut into the corner.

Note: if you plan on storing and reheating the muffins, I would hold off adding the cross until just before serving.

Otherwise, the cross will melt when you reheat the muffins, and they’ll lose their signature ‘hot cross bun’ look!

Variations and substitutions

Want to customise these muffins to fit a particular diet? Or just fancy mixing things up?

Here are some suggestions.

  • Traditional dried fruit: Replace the chocolate chips with currants for a more classic hot cross bun flavor. Or try a mixture of white chocolate and cranberries for a holiday twist.
  • Gluten-free: Use a gluten-free self-raising flour blend (King Auther does a good one)
  • Dairy-free: Substitute the buttermilk with dairy-free milk (e.g. almond or soy milk) mixed with a teaspoon of lemon juice or vinegar to mimic the tanginess of buttermilk.
  • Vegan: Replace the eggs with flax eggs (mix 2 tablespoons of ground flaxseed with 6 tablespoons of water, let it sit for 5 minutes to thicken) and use dairy-free buttermilk.
  • Spice it up: Try adding other warming spices like ground ginger, cloves, or allspice for a more complex flavor profile. Or experiment with extracts like coconut extract or rum extract.
  • Nutty addition: Mix in some chopped nuts like walnuts, pecans, or almonds for added crunch and texture. I like using salted nuts for a touch of savoryness.
  • Orange zest: Add the zest of one orange to the batter for a fragrant citrus twist – this goes REALLY well with the chocolate chips.
  • Drizzle with melted chocolate: For an extra indulgent touch, drizzle some melted dark, milk, or white chocolate over the top of the muffins. Or go all out and make a chocolate ganache.
  • Energizing: Make the muffins more energizing by mixing in some espresso powder with the batter. Don’t go overboard, though, because you don’t want the coffee flavor to overwhelm the spices!

Serving suggestions

These faux hot cross buns are a versatile treat that can be enjoyed on their own with a cup of tea, or you can serve them as part of a breakfast or brunch spread.

  • Cut the muffins in half and toast them, then slather on some butter and jam to complete the meal. YUM. If you’re feeling really indulgent, then go for Nutella. Or try apple butter (or one of these apple butter substitutes).
  • Serve the muffins alongside a fluffy scrambled egg dish for a hearty and satisfying breakfast. Sweet and savory never tasted so good! Psst… why not go all out and add bacon too?
  • Pair the muffins with a selection of cheeses like brie, cheddar, or gouda and some chutneys for a special lunch.
  • Enjoy faux hot cross buns with a side of creamy yogurt and fruit for a sort-of healthy treat. And for some crunch, add granola (Psst… need help keeping your granola crisp?)

Storage instructions

Storing your leftover hot cross bun muffins is easy and means you can enjoy them for days to come!

The best way to store the muffins is to keep them in an airtight container at room temperature for 2-3 days. Make sure the muffins are completely cooled before storing them to prevent condensation from building up in the container, which could make them soggy.

If you want to keep the muffins for longer, you can keep them in the fridge for up to 5 days.

Or freeze them for up to 3 months.

Wrap each muffin individually in plastic wrap, then place them in an airtight container. 

To thaw, remove however many muffins you want from the freezer and let them defrost at room temperature for an hour or two.

How to reheat

I personally love having my hot cross bun muffins warm. Reheating the muffins will also help soften them if they’re stale.

You can reheat the muffins in…

The microwave

  1. Place the muffin on a microwave-safe plate.
  2. Reheat on medium power for 10-15 seconds. Cover the muffin with a damp paper towel if it’s really stale.
  3. Be careful not to overheat because the muffin can dry out.

The oven

  1. Preheat your oven to 300°F (150°C).
  2. Cover the muffin in aluminum foil to keep it moist. You can also butter the muffin if it’s dry to help soften it.
  3. Heat for 5-10 minutes, or until warmed through.

If you want more information, I did an experiment to find out the best way to reheat muffins here. Coincidently, reheating muffins is very similar to reheating hot cross buns!

top down hot cross buns

Faux Hot Cross Buns

A simple, yet delicious recipe for faux hot cross buns. If you're not ready to delve into the world of yeasted buns, these muffins are a great alternative!
5 from 1 vote
Print Pin Rate
Course: Dessert
Cuisine: American
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 20 minutes
Total Time: 35 minutes
Servings: 12 people


  • 135 g chocolate chips
  • 2 1/2 cups 375g self-raising flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda baking soda
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 2/3 cup 165ml sunflower oil
  • 1 cup 250ml buttermilk
  • 2 eggs
  • 200 g caster sugar plus extra 2 tbs
  • 80 g icing sugar
  • 1 teaspoon lemon juice


  • Preheat oven to 200°C. Grease a 12-hole muffin tray and line with paper cases.
  • Sift the flour, soda and spices into a large bowl. In a separate bowl, whisk together the oil, buttermilk, eggs and sugar until combined. Add to the dry ingredients and stir to combine.
  • Gently stir in the chocolate chips. Divide the mixture among muffin cases, then bake for 20-25 minutes until lightly browned and a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean. Cool completely on a wire rack.
  • Meanwhile, place the extra 2 tbs sugar in a pan with 2 tbs water and simmer over low heat, stirring, until sugar dissolves. Brush the glaze over the muffins.
  • Sift icing sugar into a bowl. Add lemon juice and just enough hot water to make a thick, pipable icing. Use a piping bag or drizzle from a spoon to draw a cross on each muffin, then serve.


The original recipes calls for currants and cranberries, but being the chocaholic that I am, I just used chocolate chips to make a chocolate chip faux hot cross bun! Feel free to subsitute the chocolate chips with the 135g cranberries plus 150g currants from the original recipe.
Pro tip: find out the best way to reheat your hot cross buns here.

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